Donor Lens - Desire Path
May 6, 2022
5 years and 4 days ago, Eyeliner’s Buy Now was released. A unique album full to the brim with chromatic-coloured soundscapes and a sound palette ripped straight from lovable virtual world. It was an album that instigated many of the styles one can find today when scouring releases made in the echelons of experimental electronic music. And now, as we reach the precipice of 2020, the artist feels its the right time to unleash the first full length project since then. With a wonderfully non-sequitur mascot emblazoned on its artwork, and its name inferring more than a nod to vibrant visual art, this is Drop Shadow.
Our first port of call is a location that finds its basis in the real-world. Huge synthetic guitar notes twang out, as the shimmering landscape of an uncanny Los Angeles opens up. As Eyeliner draws out the various layers of percussion and melody, the listener comes face to face once again with those feelings found in previous work. The pristine MIDI melodies transporting us to a warped reality where progression is the focal point, and everything has a shiny film of optimism lacquered onto its surface. The instruments of the track all push forward at a triumphant pace, pulled in and out to sustain this constant wave of catharsis. As the track concludes we find ourselves on a beach, our eyes slowly blurring into focus.
American Beach has a more defeated feeling to it at the very start. Melancholic pads curl and drift on a gentle breeze, sounding more hopeful as the track begins to bloom. The lines between reality and idealism feel so blurred. The track is barely a minute long, but in this short time, Eyeliner showcases a pristine vista that’s tinged with uncertainty. The listener is left adrift, wondering what is real and what is artificial.
Midi jazz piano breathes out into an empty space, sounding like the OST to a 2D noir game. As the familiar sound of the panpipe begins to make itself apparent, the colours begin to show. Contact floats at an unassuming level of intensity, the beautifully trilling sparkle that appears as the track grows is majestic but quaint. The colours and the shapes the album begins to conjure shimmer in a more realistic way, and at times shirk obvious artificiality. There is a balance achieved within the instrumentation that teases a more detailed vision to the fore of the listener’s mind, whilst retaining that wonderful geometric brilliance. In the latter half of the track, an organic harp sound emerges through the warm haze. Everything is comforting and friendly.
Promise begins with a catchy organ riff and percussion that begins to fire off in rapid succession. A twinkling lead melody is actioned at perfect intervals as the combination of percussion and bass drive everything forward at a steady speed. The flow of the track is more improvisational than those before, a lead organ veering off into a flurry of notes before sinking back into the cooling sludge of instrumentation.
A muffled soundbite of rain begins Keep Calm, before a drowsy-sounding synth pad erupts. The pad evidently sparks new life in the soundscape we are begin shown, as birdsong begins to trickle from the back of the mix. A sweltering saxophone sits comfortably within the building atmosphere, played with that knowing hand of MIDI-programming. Despite this, it feels so real. Its melodies are undeniably touching. At points the listener finds themselves believing so much in the pain and longing the saxophone is depicting, but that automated pitch bend causes them to focus their mind again and all they find is a virtual entity, supposedly devoid of feeling. This push and pull between the real and artificial plays out with a searing intensity in the track. And it is only dialled up toward the end as Eyeliner shoots automated choral voices flying past us, and out into the gigantic body of water that starts to swirl at the conclusion.
Carry On plays out with a quicker pace, twinkling bells playing a rapid lullaby-like refrain. Eyeliner’s focus being much more on rhythm than in the previous track, soft pad chords play us in and out of sections with a cool and calm hand. The percussion used takes a more engaging role, a steady kick and snare partnership with shakers and claps peppered in to keep things pacy and fun.
Dulcet, weather report chords throb with a warmth as the aptly named Coffee News starts. Images of a pristine, virtual newsroom fade into the listener’s mind, devoid of human activity but alive with vibrant colours and patterns. A twanging lead guides the way into the second half of the track. Inoffensive is the name of the game, the bassline is fun but not overreaching. The drums fire out with heavy tom rolls at times, but the sounds are canned and familiar. That feeling of a controlled and simplistic environment all comes from Eyeliner’s commanding compositional prowess and talent when it comes to synthesis.
Drop Shadow brings brusque percussion and bass as Eyeliner sets the low-end grounding of the track. This causes the melody that flies in to shine with a dazzling radiance. The vibrating synth chords grip tightly to the middle ground, Eyeliner’s presentation is elementary and creates a unique dynamic. The high and middle frequencies take turns for most of the track, before the artist draws our attention to vocal samples that slide and ping about with an amorphous flightiness.
Though the name is carried over into the next track, Drop Shadow II doesn’t share much feeling or sound with its predecessor. This second act presents a much more clubby feeling. A dreamy haze of pads and dance-y bass set out an infectious rhythm, augmented by a beautiful melody that showcases the beauty of sparsity. Engaging with its use of momentum, it also touches on emotive tones and shades that weren’t present on Buy Now. Eyeliner utilises fantastic sounds and feelings from the previous release, but many of them feel more emotionally refined this time around.
This emotive nature carries over into Invisible Mask, a song that cloaks itself in subtlety at the start. Shiny sounds begin to climb up to the top of the mix, a piano plays out a melody that sounds like it belongs in an ATB song. The intensity of the track builds with church-like reverb washing over chords slowly charging upwards. The artist brings the flurry of sound down, to have it reach back up once again. This uncertain lulling section and the climbing crescendo trade blows for the entirety of the song, each of them precisely engineered enough to keep the listener hooked.
Beautiful wafting pads ebb toward us on Potpourri, a slow build with somnolent melodies worked in. They hum at the lower end of the keyboard, as we sit and watch these great shrouds of sound float above. Eyeliner keeps things minimal on this track, pushing the hypnagogic quality of the instrumentation to the forefront. Every now and again, a new sound fumbles in the ether, but our attention is always drawn back to these wonderful lapping pads. Again, feeling and emotion is promoted over function or style.
Quiet Keyboard picks up the pace with a steady percussive rhythm. Warm keys play through inoffensive chords as a slap bass synthesiser thuds along with the drumbeat. The hook melody is unforgettably positive, tinged with a little bit of longing in the middle, that concludes in a way that assures positivity and optimism win out. The listener falls effortlessly onto the cushioning affection worked into the hook every time it appears. A feeling of pain is still apparent, but its worked through this quaint formality. The song sounds like a longing smile, accented by a solitary tear.
Reverie brings us ever downwards with its unique, descending intro melody. Respite comes in the form of these wonderfully glittery piano chords. Percussion joins in with an equal amount of gumption and drive. And from there, Eyeliner bursts into a lead melody that is shared by resonant keys and whistling pipe sounds. In dividing this achingly fun and cheerful lead riff out between a range of MIDI instruments, the artist creates this beautifully multi-coloured conclusion. Each plume of keys erupts with this fantastical electronic sound. But there can’t be a throng of obvious feeling without this reiteration of sadness, and Eyeliner ends things on this heartfelt descending melody. An ending that seems to be engineered to instil a wistful, unspeakable longing in the listener.
At its base, Drop Shadow is a wonderful, kaleidoscopic journey. It is a tightrope walk, balancing between fun and loss, between pain and joy, all through the lens of Eyeliner’s incredible and original style. But more than this, it marks a progression in sound and musicality. At certain points, we can feel the artist teasing in these more organic aspects of instrumentation. They may still be artificially made, but the ghosts of something real and fibrous are there. And this instils in the album this wonderful aura, with all the fun of a virtually malleable shape, and all the painstaking detail of a real-world object.